Chef Warr’s Star-Studded Career Begins on a Step Stool
CLARKSDALE – Standing on a step stool in his grandmother’s kitchen, Chef Brennon Warr learned to cook but never dreamed of his star-studded career at the Peabody’s Chez Phillippe, the Food Network with Paula Deen, Justin Timberlake’s Mirimichi Golf Course, and Coahoma Community College’s culinary department.
“I was six or seven, and became the family short-order cook for eggs,” says Warr.
Growing up amid diverse cuisines, Warr says his mother is Puerto Rican and Creole; his father, Creole, and his mother’s mother is from the New Orleans French Quarter.
Today he’s also passing along his expertise and infectious good humor to culinary students he teaches at CCC.
One of them – Matthew Clifton of Mound Bayou, he says, is so talented, he’s capable of winning the coveted culinary championship of Mississippi’s SkillsUSA competition this month.
Warr grew up in Memphis, graduated from Central High School, and Middle Tennessee State where he studied early childhood education and finance.
“School bored me; it was a repeat of high school and was too slow,” says Warr who joined the work force on a forklift at Central Woodwork.
Following marriage, he switched to selling new and used cars in Memphis, Joplin, Missouri, and back again to Memphis.
“I was an honest salesman, built a customer base, and would rather lose a sale than be dishonest,” he said.
“When the car business got bad, I started thinking about basketball players and how they loved what they were doing,” recalls Warr.
“I loved cooking at home, and thought about culinary school although I had enrolled in the Art Institute of Atlanta,” he said.
He said a friend at the Memphis Chamber of Commerce talked him into attending the new L’Ecole Culinaire, and joined the school’s third class.
“It was so easy, it was scary,” says Warr, a serious cook since first grade.
L’Ecole Culinaire Chef School graduates were told the number one job in the Memphis area would be Chez Philippe, and number two: the Food Network.
He snagged both: cooking lamb and even ostrich at the Peabody and working with Paula Deen, Big Daddy, and the Neelys on the Food Network
“ I was a food stylist,” he said, explaining that that he actually presented the food the celebrity chef “cooked on camera.”
Four years ago , he also began an association with entertainer Justin Timberlake at the Mirimechi Golf Course in Memphis. He continues to cater special events for him there.
Since the spring of 2011, however, he’s jumped into teaching and directing the culinary arts department at Coahoma. He loves it, his students, and is mistaken frequently as a kid in class since, “I’m kind of a t-shirt guy,” he says.
“It’s wonderful to see the progression of young minds and what they can do,” he says,
After delivering and overseeing basic instructions and making sure they don’t cut themselves, Warr says he gives students full control of a project.
“I let the reins go,” he says. “You can’t mess up unless you overcook or undercook food, and you can tell at a touch.”
Warr and his students recently prepared appetizers for 700 legislators in Jackson, and this month for a reception before poet Michael Warr’s lecture at the Sun Gallery.
On March 22, they’ll be furnishing appetizers again before “The Black Russian” lecture sponsored by Carnegie Public Library, CCC, and Coahoma County Higher Education Center.
He’s also helping Matthew Clifton and others prepare for rigorous USASkills competition in Jackson Feb. 26-27.
“Winning medals would be nice, but we’re more interested in job offers for Matthew and our other CCC students,” says Warr.